This year marks the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and as you can guess, my pretties, all manner of deluxe DVD foofaraw is being loosed in the aisles of Best Buy, etc. The good folks at Rhino Records are also re-releasing a two-disc deluxe edition of the soundtrack, complete with rare outtakes and demos. Oz still makes for rousing listening. Herbert Stothart's score is frenetic and fun — that is, when it's not subtly nightmarish, a precursor to everything modern composer Danny Elfman has done, be it Batman or Desperate Housewives. And the songs, by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, are nothing less than ingrained in our DNA, from If I Only Had a Brain to The Lollipop Guild.
And then, of course, there's Over the Rainbow.
Judy Garland, aka fresh-faced Frances Gumm, was only 16 when she played Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale. According to the liner notes in the Rhino box set, Garland's two-minute, 44-second iconic version of Over the Rainbow was actually cobbled together from three separate takes. Who says editors ruin everything?
Since then, Over the Rainbow — voted the No. 1 "Song of the Century" by the Recording Industry Association of America — has been covered by thousands of artists, from Barbra Streisand to Eric Clapton to the Smashing Pumpkins. There are myriad sublime versions: Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole recorded a hugely popular rendition on ukulele; you should also search out a YouTube duet by Brit songstress Katie Melua and the late Eva Cassidy. Arlen and Harburg's song construction is so perfect, it's pretty hard to mess up Over the Rainbow. But, alas, more than a few people have done Dorothy wrong — really wrong . . .
5 Worst Covers of Over the Rainbow
Jerry Lee Lewis (1980)
"There's a land ol' Jerry's dreamed of." Yikes! Not sure what the Killer was doing on this one, but I can't help thinking about that honeymoon with his 13-year-old cousin bride.
Sam Harris (1984)
This mulleted Corey Hart look-alike was the octave-leaping prince of the inaugural season of Star Search, Ed McMahon's scourge upon pop culture. This version is so ridiculous, so over the top — but still so strangely popular — I'm guessing Harris made a deal with Beelzebub.
Mandy Patinkin (1989)
It's far too easy teasing the 'Tinker, but between his falsetto and all that incessant pleading for lemon drops, the multitalented star makes Tiny Tim look like Rambo.
Carly Simon (2007)
Remember 1962 horror flick Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? And how Bette Davis, gussied up like the granny from hell, did that chilling little-girl ice cream dance at the end? As Joan Crawford lay dying on the beach? Well, that was all somehow less creepy than Carly Simon's Dorothy impression.
Jason Castro (2008)
Bring on the hate mail! The blinky American Idol star (you know, the dude with the dreads and the moon face) tried to do the bonfire ukulele treatment — but wound up sounding like he was giving himself a groin injury. Somewhere over the ICU is more like it.